APPLICATION: ART OR STATEMENT?
PART ONE: STATEMENTS ABOUT ART
PART TWO: STATEMENTS ABOUT ART
Below you will find applications to the art theory of Stefan Beyst
Ever more examples will be added until there is a complete overview of
the most important non-verbal statements about art that pose for
Manzoni Rombouts Vautier
MARCEL DUCHAMP (1887-1968)
'Fontaine' was originally meant as a joke to contest the role of
juries, and was only afterwards bestowed the role of the later
ready-mades, just like the bicycle wheel (1913): to demonstrate by way
of a chocking gesture that also real objects can become art. That
surely is the case when that object is a
mimetic object: when it comes to conjure up something other than what it
is, as with what the Surrealists called an ''objet
example above a piece of wood is perceived as a dragon. Duchamp's
bicycle wheel remains what it is: a bicycle wheel. We are not dealing,
then, with a work of art, but with a non-verbal statement about art.
Duchamp has also made ready-mades which are
actually meant as such. We will deal with these in the file 'displayed
reality' (soon on this site)
'With hidden noise' (1916)
is not so much a 'readymade', as rather an 'assemblage'. But
nevertheless still a real object that coincides with itself and does not
conjure up something else. It is made in collaboration with Walter Arensberg,
who had to hide some object in it. Nobody knows what that object is. A
riddle, hence. And that goes also for the text in English and French'.
“Everything that man has handled has the fatal tendency to secrete
meaning” says Marcel Duchamp. And that applies
also to this assemblage. But, however
much meaning an object might secrete, it is thereby never turned into a
work of art.
''Fresh widow' (1920) is another variant. It is based upon a pun on
'French Window' and belongs to the genre of 'visualisations' (soon on
In 'Why not sneeze?', marble blocks are sawn up so as to look like lumps
of sugar. When lifting the cage, it becomes apparent that we are not
dealing with sugar, but with marble. In so far,
we are dealing with mimesis, which is revealed as such through making
the intersensory reduction undone through lifting: 'Noli me tangere'. On
the other hand, the thermometer and the title suggest that we are
looking at ice lumps. But it is not immediately clear then why the whole
has been put into a cage. Whatever the
interpretation, we are not dealing here with an artwork, but with a
riddle formulated in a non-verbal language - a kind of three-dimensional
rebus - of which the mimetic cubes are only a part. 'Why not sneeze'
does not belong to the section 'Art', but, just like crosswords, to the
section 'Sports and Games'.
The rotoreliefs, on the other hand, are imitations: they suggest the
presence of forms in a three-dimensional space, where there is in
fact only a flat surface. Mimesis hence. But,
granted, what we get to see is rather meagre....
In the literal sense of the word 'negative mimesis' are the famous
'Female Fig leaf' (1950) and 'Objet-dart' (1951): moulds of the outer
and (at least according to Arturo Schwarz...) the inner female genitals
that are not filled with some material like bronze, and thus contain the
imitated only as a void.
Full mimesis are 'La mariée mise à nu par ses célibataires, même'' and 'Etant donné
l'eau et le gaz'. Both works do not consist of real objects, but of
imitated objects. Each of these objects has a 'symbolic meaning'. Only
after interpretation is it apparent that we are dealing with a series of
statements, one about Eros and one about Art. We are dealing here
with allegories, like with Bosch and Brueghel. And, although especially 'La mariée mise à nu par ses célibataires, même'
is not bad at all when we look at the representation as if it were not
symbolic, Bosch and Brueghel are far more interesting in that respect.
Thus, Duchamp has learned us that you
can do a lot with mere object, but none of his creations with objects is
mimesis, and hence no art. In as far as he uses imitations like in his
allegories, he did nothing new, let alone revolutionary. Rather are we
referred to the periode where art was desperately trying to free itself
from the allegoric yoke.
PIERO MANZONI (1933-1963)
In 1957 Piero Manzoni became renown for his achromes (see 'Art and
In 1959, he begins with a series of 'Lines': ink traces
on paper rolls of varying length in sealed containers, signed and sold.
The longest measures
7.200 meter. To my view, Manzoni is distancing himself from the
'personal handwriting' of the Action Painters. A statement about art,
in his happening 'Consumazione dell'arte dinamica del pubblico divorare l'arte',
the public was invited to eat hard boiled eggs, signed with the
fingerprints of the artist. Another statement, possibly referring to the
debasement of art to a pure article of consumption.
signing with his fingerprints, the artist proceeds to
inflate 'air bodies' with his breath as 'Fiato d'artista' in
d'aria'. It is not difficult to guess the meaning of these statements.
In 1961 he packs his own
shit in 90 tin cans, signed and numbered like prints. And sold. Many of
them have meanwhile exploded. Another series of non-verbal statements
In 1961 Manzoni makes 'Living sculptures'. Real people and nudes were
declared art by signing and displaying them on a pedestal. This move
culminates in his famous 'Le socle du Monde' (1961) a reversed pedestal
that declares the whole world art.
All these objects are
non-verbal statements about art, and especially 'Merda d'artista' and 'Le
du monde' are to the point. But: no art...
BEN VAUTIER (°1935)
'Je suis art' (1964) is equally a non-verbal statement about art, a variant
on Manzoni's self-exhibition in
There are lots of other variants, like 'Tout est art. Tout est
Ben Vautier made also many verbal statements about art.
BALDESSARI JOHN (°1931)
In the late sixties, John Baldessari made some
verbal statements about
art. 'In other works, the statements are non-verbal. In 'Commissioned
Paintings' (1969), John Baldessari concentrates on 'pointing'. In a
variant of the procedure of Sol le Witt and Weiner, he makes photos of a
hand pointing at various objects, which are then painted by hired
artists and signed by a professional sign painter with the words ''A
Painting by ....' . We are dealing here with - rather cheap -
non-verbal statements about art.
IANNIS KOUNELLIS (°1936)
In the end of the sixties, Iannis Kounellis made some non-verbal
statements in the vein of Manzoni. Suffices it to refer tot the parrot
sitting before a canvas, hinting a the widely-scorned
conception of art as mimesis. He became famous with the exhibition of
real horses in the galeria l’Attico in 1969: Manzoni's 'Socle
du Monde' in practice.
this initial series of non-verbal manifests, Kounellis
suits the action to the word. He proceeds to
working with real objects instead of paintings. Some of these objects
are displayed reality, others
representations in the mind and others still are
mimesis as such, even when unusual media are used, as in his catafalques.
For an comprehensive approach of Kounellis' oeuvre:
Kounellis: the metamorphoses of Apollo'
Guy Rombouts and Monica Droste have worked together
since 1986 on the creation of alphabet AZART: art with the alphabet from
A to Z. To know how it works, you can visit
www.azart.be. where you can type a
text which is then immediatly translated in the new alphabet. The
coloured lines you get to see are lines of the same nature as the lines
with which traditional letters are written: not the lines of a drawing
that conjure up something else than what they are. Letter design hence
But what matters is not the design of the letters. There is no doubt
that Guy Rombouts has something very profound to tell about the relation
between word and image - or to phrase it in more general terms: the
relation between art and philosophy - although it escapes his attention
that he does so not through translating a word in an image, but simply
through replacing one alphabet with another.
Whatever the message of Guy Rombouts - it has not become image and does
therefore not belong in the realm of art, but in the realm of philosophy,
section statements about art.
WIM DELVOYE (°1965)
A large-scale variant on Manzoni's
'Merda d'artista' is Wim Delvoye's
'Cloaca' (2000) . Also projects like 'Pigs'
are non-verbal comments on the
commercialisation of art.
other works of Wim Delvoye, the act of imitation is only a means of
making - ironic or parodic - statements about
art, as in 'Marble Floors' van 1999, where he
imitates marble in meat products:
Jan Fabre in
2000 to wrap the columns of the Aula in Ghent in ham.
Still other works of Wim Delvoye are
'Visualisations' (soon on this website).
THOMAS DEMAND (°1968 München)
Thomas Demand studied sculpture at the Akademie der bildenden Künste in
Munich and the Kunstakademie in Düsseldorf. From 1993 onwards he makes
large-scale photographs of scenes re-created
from events reported in newspapers using colored paper and cardboard.
Demand's photographs are not art, but
illustrations of reflections about the status of the
image (instrumental mimesis),
exemplary in his 'Thomas Demand "Scheinprobleme
in der Philosophie. Das Fremdpsychische und der Realismusstreit"Rudolf
MAURIZIO CATTELAN (° 1960).
From the nineties onwards, Maurizio Cattelan has profiled himself as the
new jester of the Art World. A jester, however, who understands to
completely integrate himself in the Art System itself, wholly in the
vein of figures like Dali, Manzoni and Andy
Many of his works are non-verbal statements about art. Think of the
'sculpture' of a taxidermied horse hanging on the ceiling (Ballad of
Trotsky, 1996, a reference to
Kounellis' horses), of a
stuffed ostrich with its head buried in the ground ((Untitled, 1997), or
of he 'painting' in which he slashed Zorro’s “Z” into a painting, as an
allusion to Lucio Fontana’s cuts. '76.000.000' (1992) is a real broken safe from which 76 million lire was
stolen, is purported to be "a metaphor for the bankruptcy of ideas in post-modern communication".
Other statements are brought in the form of 'performances': bringing a
live donkey into a gallery in 'Warning! Enter at Your Own Risk'(1994)
(think equally of Kounellis'
horses); attaching a Milanese gallerist to the walls of his gallery with Scotch-tape; persuading his
dealer Emmanuel Perrotin to spend a month
dressed as a giant pink phallus (1994); selling his space at the Venice Biennial to a publicity agency that
was launching a new perfume; hiring an actor to put on a Disney-mascot-sized Picasso head
begging near the MoMA entrance (1998). In the same vein, Cattelan has
also taken on the role of curator and of editor of a magazine called 'Permanent Food' which includes images stolen
from other magazines. He is also renown for his absurd interviews (in
the tradition of Andy Warhol).
Other works of Maurizio Cattelan are
about the world.
Still other works - although merely wax figures or stuffed animals or
skeletons- are genuine sculptures: 'Bidibidobidib oo' (1996) a stuffed
squirrel that apparently has committed suicide on a kitchen table with a
revolver; Charlie Don't Surf (1997), a small figure in a hooded
coat sitting with its back to the viewer at a cramped school desk with
pencils driven through both palms; 'Love lasts forever' (1999),
consisting of skeletons of a donkey, a dog, a cat, and a rooster (the
Grimm Brothers); ‘La Nona Ora’ (1999), an effigy of Pope John Paul II in
full ceremonial dress being crushed by a meteor; 'Him' (2001), a
miniature Adolf Hitler asking for forgiveness; 'Three kids' hanging
from their necks in an oak tree in Milan park (2004). It is obvious,
however, that Cattelan's main objective is to shock and thus to attract
the attention of the media. Of course there is also the rather innocent
'Charlie' (2007), a robotic sculpture of a kid with an eerily adult face
with moving eyes, head and legs, made in rubber, resin, silicone and
natural hair, riding on a tricycle, On occasion of the 'Synagogue
Stommeln Art Project 2008', Maurizio Cattelan decided to
hang a sculpture of a crucified young woman - the "Blessed Christine
from a local legend - on the exterior wall of a
church in Stommeln, just outside Cologne.
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